Hey everyone! Welcome back to my channel and thank you so much for being here. As you can see from the title, we’re gonna be chatting about eating disorders today. And it’s just been eating disorders awareness week in the US and in the UK. Now, I would’ve got this video up a little bit sooner but you know, life… *children cheering* So here we are jumping on the bandwagon, little bit late, but you know what, eating disorder awareness is something that we need to talk about all year round. So that’s what we’re gonna do. Estimates for how many people are affected by eating disorders in the UK range from about 725,000 to 1.6 million and there’s actually not really a good way to get an accurate reading because so many people don’t reach out, and the numbers of people affected are based on the people who are diagnosed who reach out for help. So even though these are illnesses that affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions of us here in the UK, we are still fucking clueless about eating disorders. And our cluelessness is hurting people. ‘Cos what it’s doing is creating stigma, first of all, y’know stigma about mental illness, it’s still everywhere and it’s largely based on misconception. Our lack of knowledge about eating disorders also stops people from seeking treatment. Because y’know they don’t think that there’s a problem they don’t think they could have an eating disorder because we don’t really know what they mean. And ultimately our lack of education about eating disorders as a culture is stopping us from being able to do what we can to prevent and properly treat them. ‘Cos y’know how can you prevent or treat something that you don’t understand. So! Here we are. Camera’s rolling. I have enough dry shampoo in my hair to sink a small battleship. Let’s bust some eating disorder myths. Now if you’ve followed me for a while you’re probably familiar with my history of eating disorders. Uh, here’s a quick recap, for anyone who isn’t… I started dieting at around 10-years-old, and very quickly that spiraled into a real obsession with weight and calories and making my body smaller and smaller. So what started as dieting got more and more restrictive and took over more and more of my life and more and more of my mind until it was pretty much all that mattered to me. My number one goal in life was just making my body smaller, and I was gonna do whatever it took to get there. And then the diets morphed into something completely different, and didn’t feel optional anymore. And before I knew it I was being taken to the doctors when I was 14-years-old and being told that I had something called anorexia nervosa. Now at the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t have much of an idea of what anorexia nervosa was I hadn’t studied it in school and I hadn’t talked about it at home I had occasionally seen it on the TV and it always seemed to happen to thin, rich, white ladies. And apart from TV I also sometimes saw it in my mum’s magazines laid out in that y’know tragic true life setting. You know it seemed to be this kind of horrible, but rare thing and I sure as hell never thought that it would happen to me. Now at 14 I didn’t have a very developed sense of mental illnesses in general I didn’t understand them, and as far as I was concerned I was just losing weight the way that I had been taught to the way the world had taught me to. And y’know, 10 pounds ago people were still complimenting me on my willpower and asking me what the secret was, and then all of a sudden I was sat in a doctor’s office and they were saying ‘you have a a mental illness’. I didn’t know what was going on. And I didn’t take it seriously for a long long time. And I struggled through anorexia for two years. And a big part of anorexia generally is denial, not believing that there’s a problem. And I don’t think that was helped by not really having an education on what eating disorders were. So there I was, not believing that there was a problem, even when I was pulled out of school, even when I had to spend a summer in a residential psychiatric unit and even when I was hospitalised. And actually the very first time that I kind of admitted to myself that there was a serious problem, was when my parents were being told by the doctors that they couldn’t guarantee how much longer I would live and that they could probably say their goodbyes. In previous years, even up to last year I probably would have popped up a little picture of me when I was at my sickest. Now, I’m not gonna do that today. Because the thing is I fit the stereotype of what we as a culture think that anorexia looks like I have the scary low weight pictures, I have the typical, y’know, emaciated ‘look’ that people think anorexia is. And although reclaiming those pictures that was once a very very important part of my journey, because it was, it was reclaiming my experience it was owning it and it was showing that I could heal from it. That was important to me at once stage, but now I’m very aware that those pictures, and y’know scary low weight pictures in general they reinforce the stereotype that anorexia only looks one way. And they can also be a serious source of comparison for people who are still struggling. And even though I did fit the stereotype, there are thousands or even millions of people who are struggling right now who don’t, and won’t, and shouldn’t be made to feel like their illness is any less valid or worthy of help. So, no to the ‘before’ picture but that does bring us very nicely to our first fact about eating disorders: they come in all shapes and sizes. Because we have a serious lack of accurate representation of eating disorders in the media we have this really warped idea that we can tell one just from looking at someone. We’ve turned eating disorders into a look or a body type. And what this does is make anyone who’s struggling but doesn’t fit that look believe that they’re not sick enough, they’re not worthy of treatment, their eating disorder isn’t real. But the thing is, eating disorders are mental illnesses and they sometimes come with physical side effects that we can notice on someone’s appearance. Sometime’s they don’t. And whether they do or not that doesn’t actually determine how much someone is struggling. And even medically speaking, in this country your BMI has to be a certain number before you can get diagnosed with anorexia. And while that categorisation might provide some guidlines for who is in urgent need of physical care, it really doesn’t show who is in urgent need of mental care, which is anyone who’s struggling with an eating disorder at any size. If you don’t fit that weight requirement, if you’re lucky you might get a diagnosis of atypical anorexia which is generally considered anorexia but without the low weight. But time and time again we see these kind of horror stories where people have reached out for help with an eating disorder and been told ‘you’re not thin enough, your BMI isn’t low enough, come back in 6 months’. Telling someone who’s just come forward with a mental illness that they need to come back once they look different is bizarre and it’s dangerous and it is hurting people. Especially since delaying treatment of eating disorders can have serious consequences, and the sooner someone can get treatment the better and the higher chance they have of recovery. And this misconception that weight is the be all and end all of eating disorders means that there’s a serious double standard when it comes to a fat person reaching out for help, and a thin person reaching out for help. These two people could both be experiencing the exact same eating disorder behaviours. They could both be equally obsessed with food and calories and their weight and losing weight and it could be taking over their entire lives, and it could be having the same effect on both of them mentally. But when they go to the doctors and they reach out for help, they will be treated very differently. And sometimes being told to come back later isn’t even the worst case scenario. I know several people who exist in a fat body. who when they’ve reached out for help have simply been told ‘Congratulations, good job on your diet, you’re really dedicated, keep going!’ But these are the exact same behaviours that in a thin person would be diagnosed as an eating disorder in a heartbeat. And there is something very messed up with that picture. And the stereotypes about eating disorders having a certain look go way beyond size and shape, like I mentioned earlier my main picture was a rich, thin, white lady. That leaves a whole lot of people out and leads to the dangerous idea that people of colour don’t get eating disorders. Or only women get eating disorders. Or only middle class or rich people get eating disorders. Which just isn’t true because eating disorders don’t discriminate, they happen to people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, people of all ages, people of all genders, and abilities and social classes. There is no look to eating disorders, absolutely anyone can get one. So one more time for the people in the back: eating disorders are not body types they are mental illnesses, and every single one is worthy of recognition and treatment, regardless of how that person looks. I don’t know if you can hear it but there’s a little bit of rain coming down but we’re just gonna roll with it we’re just gonna carry on. Okay. The second thing that people need to know about eating disorders is that they are not a choice. Y’know back when I was ill probably the phrase that I heard the most was ‘why don’t you just eat more?’ They made it sound as simple as that, as if I had just kind of chosen to go off food or lose a bit of weight and it’s gone a bit too far. That massively oversimplifies how complex and how serious eating disorders are. Y’know the thing about choice is that it only feels like there’s a choice if the second option seems possible, and seems viable, like you could choose it. And often when you’re stuck in that eating disorder mindset it doesn’t feel like it’s a choice. It doesn’t feel like there’s another option. So phrases like ‘why don’t you just eat more?’ Yeah, great, thanks. Really just solved the whole problem there didn’t you Brenda? And because eating disorders are not a choice, they’re also not a diet gone too far or a bit of attention seeking got out of hand. They are serious, complex, multi-dimensional illnesses. And I don’t have time in this video to explore every possible explanation we currently have for eating disorders but there’s usually three main subjects that that people look into when they’re looking for the cause. First of all, the psychological factor. That is, what it is about specific individuals that make them more susceptible to the development of eating disorders. Traits like perfectionism or never feeling like you’re good enough, these are the type of psychological traits that we associate with people who are more likely to develop eating disorders. Second we have the socio-cultural, as in what is happening in the world around us. I actually wrote in my book on the chapter about eating disorders that if all the powers that be in the world were to kind of sit around a table and think ‘hmmmm how could we develop a world where the most possible eating disorders happen? What would that world look like?’ It would literally be this. This world that we live in is so saturated with diet culture and it really prescribes disordered eating of all kinds as the norm anyway. So of course this is a culture where people are more susceptible to developing eating disorders. And last but not least we have the physiological factor which could cover anything from a genetic built-in predisposition to contract an eating disorder. Or the physical effects that eating disorders have that kind of perpetuate them. So for example when it comes to restrictive eating disorders starvation over long periods of time causes actual physical changes in the brain and the brain chemicals, and this can bring you feelings of release and euphoria, or it can feel like an addiction. So the actual physical changes that happen in eating disorders carry the cycle on. So even from that little picture of how many possible causes there are I think it’s pretty clear that it’s not as simple as eating disorders being a choice. No one in the world would choose to have an eating disorder. Fact number three: there are more eating disorders than anorexia and bulimia, and absolutely all of them are serious and worthy of treatment. Binge eating disorder, orthorexia and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder) are all valid and dangerous disorders and they often aren’t recognised or taken as seriously as others. I think when it comes to eating disorders, we tend to only notice things in extremes because our culture does encourage disordered eating behaviours anyway, to everyone. For example if we look at bulimia, we have a very narrow idea of what that means we think that is someone gorging on huge quantities of food and then making themselves sick. But actually, the purging aspect of bulimia often comes through excessive amounts of exercise y’know trying to burn as many calories off as you can. But that’s something that our culture really encourages us to do all the time anyway, how many times a day do we hear that we have to burn off all of our ‘indulgences’ or ‘treats’? Y’know how many charts do we see in magazines saying ‘this is how many miles you have to run to burn off a doughnut’. Which by the way, you don’t have to run any miles, because you don’t have to burn off every single thing you eat. And when it comes to orthorexia, we’re really only just recognising it as a disorder, it’s not yet in the DSM-5 which means it’s technically not diagnosable, but it is real and it is spreading. Orthorexia is a term that was coined by Steven Bratman in 1997 I think? And it essentially means when the preoccupation with clean eating and food purity takes over your mental wellbeing. And because we are now living in a culture that is so drowned in fitspo and y’know clean eating trends and it’s all over social media, this is real and this is spreading. So if all these disordered patterns of eating are so normalised in our culture already, when do they become a disorder? I think the key to knowing whether you’re eating in a disordered way is the effect that it’s having on your mental health. So for example, wanting to eat organic kale and have the health benefits of a clean diet that in itself, that’s not an eating disorder and that’s not a problem, it’s when it starts to take over your every thought and you are completely obsessed with only eating the cleanest most pure things. And similarly there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work out or being into fitness or being a gym bunny, but if you start feeling like you have to centre your entire life around it and it’s all you think about night and day? Then I think it’s crossed the line into something else. Eating disorders take so many forms and just because one doesn’t fit the very narrow specific criteria or doesn’t fit other people’s preconceptions of what an eating disorder is it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. Every disordered behaviour around food, eating, exercise and body image deserves to be addressed and taken seriously. (plane noises) Number 4: There are ways to treat people with eating disorders that are helpful and ways that aren’t so helpful. Something that I get asked a lot is how can I treat my loved one or my friend who has an eating disorder, what should I say to them, how can I help? I think because we’re so clueless about eating disorders we don’t know what to do around them, we kind of panic and often that leads to us saying things that can be really harmful. So I thought it’d be really handy to spit this category into Things Not To Do and Things To Do Do not make comments about someone’s weight or body if they have an eating disorder. Even if you think it’s a compliment or you think it’s nice they will latch onto that and you don’t know what their eating disorder will turn that into. For example, as soon as I started gaining a bit of weight in my recovery, the comments came pouring in and people would say to me ‘You look so much better now’ or ‘Congratulations on how you’ve filled out you look really well’ but because I was not mentally recovered yet I couldn’t handle those comments and my eating disorder really latched onto them and used them as proof that I’d got it all wrong and that I needed to go back and that I was essentially getting fat. And no matter what you say about someone’s body when they’re in that mindset, they can twist it into whatever their eating disorder wants it to mean. So just steer clear of weight and body comments in general. And that doesn’t mean that you can give compliments you can compliment them on who they are or you can say things like ‘I’m really glad you’re here’ or ‘I’m really happy to see you’, and that would actually count a lot more than a comment on how they look. Equally watch your own food and body talk when you’re around that person, because you really don’t know what could be triggering to someone else’s eating disorder. Things like constant diet talk, group body shaming or calorie counting? They are not helpful for someone with any kind of eating disorder to hear because they kind of normalise and reinforce what their eating disorder is already telling them. So cut that out. And if it wasn’t obvious enough already, don’t make any kind of jokes about eating disorders. Honestly there is nothing worse as someone who’s in recovery than watching a film or even listening to a song and all of a sudden they bust out some kind of flippant insensitive comment about anorexia or another eating disorder. That is such a gut punch feeling, especially if the people you’re with then laugh at it. So no jokes about eating disorders. Ever. Around anyone. Come on. And things that are good to do, when you have a loved one who’s struggling with an eating disorder. First of all: get educated There are so many resources out there, there’s so much you could learn even if you don’t understand right now or you’re scared, just give it a try, do some reading, go online. I’m gonna put a bunch of resources in the caption bit of this video, so go and read up because having a better understanding of eating disorders in general will make it easier to relate, it will make it less scary. The second thing that you can do, and this is a really important one you can let that person know that you are willing to listen in a completely non-judgemental capacity. Make them feel like you are a safe person that they can come to and they can really unload and share how they’re feeling, and that will mean more than you having the widest possible understanding of eating disorders already. Equally, be patient. I think it can be very frustrating for people who aren’t in that mindset to understand why things that seem easy to them seem like the hardest things in the world to someone with an eating disorder. Like if you go out for a meal and you’re just frustrated over why can’t they just do it why can’t they just be well, why can’t they just eat? Be patient with them. Because their mind has turned things that you think of as simple, into the most disastrous, terrifying things, so be patient. And this last one you should do if you have a loved one with an eating disorder I think this is the most important one to be honest with you. And that is to keep reminding that person of who they are underneath the eating disorder. Eating disorders can be so all consuming that they really strip people of who they once were and who they really are, and when you’re completely consumed in that way you start believing that there’s nothing more to you. That all you have is the eating disorder. Which then becomes another reason why you don’t think that you should let it go. So it’s so important for friends and family to keep treating you like the person that you are. Keep reminding you of all of the amazing memories that you’ve had together of your passions and your interests and what makes you laugh, and y’know even if that person isn’t reacting in the same way or doesn’t seem to be that person anymore they are still in there. It might just take a lot of digging to find them, but they need to be reminded of that. So keep trying, keep being a friend, keep treating them like a normal human being, because y’know that is what they are. And number five, the last thing that I want people to know about eating disorders, is that recovery looks different on every body. Now when I started my recovery at 16 I had a very disordered relationship with food and my weight really went from one extreme to the other I tripled my body weight within a year. And suddenly there I was in this newly chubby body back in a world saturated by diet culture, a world telling me my body was wrong again, and I felt like the biggest failure in the entire world. Because the only recovery stories I ever saw around me, the people had managed to stay thin. I had not managed to stay thin. I thought I couldn’t even do recovery right. But the thing is, there is no ideal recovery body. There just isn’t. It will look different on everyone and having this idea that there is an ideal body to reach when you hit recovery, that is stopping people from truly letting go and truly finding freedom. Because if you’re recovering from a restrictive eating disorder, and you’ve been told that you have to gain weight for your recovery you will have this idea that okay, maybe you can gain weight but only a certain amount and only in the right places. And then, that’s not recovery that’s a new obsession that’s watering it down but not letting go. You know there’s currently this trend happening online in recovery communities where fitspo is being held up as the way to recover. And a recovery body should be toned and muscular and only have fat in tiny amounts in just the right places. But the thing is, the fear of fat that lies at the heart of so many restrictive eating disorders and if you’re not addressing that if you’re not letting that go, then you’re just kind of hovering in a half recovery. And the truth when it comes to recovery is that however your body looks, when you are mentally the most free, and the most at peace with food and movement, that is how your body is supposed to look. That is your recovery body. It might not look how you thought it would, how you dreamed it would, how anyone else’s looks, but that’s where you’re supposed to be. And that body, wherever it ends up, is so so good enough and so worthy of acceptance and so worthy of your love. So let go of the idea that recovery looks a certain way, and just focus on getting your freedom. Okay so those are my top 5 things that I want people to know about eating disorders. That is not an exhaustive list and y’know most of it is based on my own experience, so it will have been centered around anorexia nervosa and restrictive eating disorders in general, but if there’s more that you want people to know then absolutely leave it in the comments, shout it from the rooftops, spread the word because we need to leave these eating disorder myths behind. It’s 2018 people, we need to get our shit together and get educated on this, because any amount of people struggling, is too many. Like I said I’ve put some resources down below so make sure you check them out and if you wanna hear more about my experiences or my take on eating disorders in general you can get a copy of my book, just sayin’, link is up there Thank you so much for watching, I will be back soon and I hope you have a really good day. Bye everyone!